Up to 1,000 social workers and administrative staff throughout Northern Ireland took part in a solid one-day strike yesterday (19 June 2002).
The action was part of a campaign in protest against cash and staff shortages that have brought Family and Childcare Services to a crisis point at every Health Trust.
The main public sector union in Northern Ireland, NIPSA, points out that staff in this sector can no longer cope with trying to provide statutory child protection and family support services without the necessary resources.
Around 84% of NIPSA members voted for the strike and a huge 94% voted for an official work to rule. Yesterday’s action included a public rally of 400 workers outside Stormont, the seat of the local power-sharing Assembly. The rally was scheduled to lobby a meeting of the Assembly’s Health and Social Services Committee. So far, the sectarian and pro-market based political parties that dominate the Assembly have done nothing to address the core issue of under-funding.
Rally speakers included NIPSA President, Ciaran Campbell, and the union’s Deputy General Secretary, John Corey. Union activists who have long campaigned for more resources for Family and Childcare Services also addressed the meeting, including Eileen Webster, from the Health Trust in Derry, and Kevin Lawrenson, a worker in the Health Trust in North Belfast, both of whom are also members of the Socialist Party (section of the CWI).